Monday, April 4, 2016

The Man Who Was Nobody (1960)

The Man Who Was Nobody was one of the series of very low-budget crime B-movies based on Edgar Wallace potboilers that were made at Merton Park Studios in the early 1960s, strangely enough coinciding with the German Edgar Wallace craze that gave us so many wildly entertaining movies in the “krimi” genre. The German movies were crazier and more fun but these British movies have their own charm as well.

To help keep the budgets at rock bottom the Merton Park B-features updated Wallace’s stories to contemporary times. These were produced as true B-movies, intended to fill the bottom spot on double bills although they were later screened on American television as the Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre.

Hazel Court stars as private eye Marjorie Stedman. She might not look much like a private eye but then not looking like a private eye can be an advantage. She’s been hired to find a young man named James Tynewood. Tynewood bought a diamond for his bride-to-be. The diamond cost a great deal of money but unfortunately Tynewood’s cheque bounced. Tynewood then vanished leaving a lot of other unpaid debts behind him. Lawyer Vance (Robert Dorning) wants Marjorie to find Tynewood before the police do. Vance wants her to give Tynewood a message - that South Africa Smith is in the way!

Marjorie pursues a promising lead - a would-be actress named Alma Weston who posed as Tynewood’s fiancĂ©e. The trail will also lead her to a murder, to gambling dens, to London’s beatniks and to the mysterious South Africa Smith.

The plot has enough twists to keep things reasonably interesting for the film’s very modest 58-minute running time. There’s a bit of action, a decent enough mystery and some suspense. Director Montgomery Tully churned out countless ultra-low budget B-pictures, all of them workmanlike and effective.

Hazel Court makes a very glamorous and classy private detective, perhaps just a little too classy for such an occupation but then she is supposed to be a up-market private detective. She’s not quite so convincing when she has to pose as a beatnik but I get the feeling that the beatniks were a bit of a mystery to the people who made this movie. On the whole though she does a competent job. She is an English private eye and they do tend to be a little more genteel than their transatlantic cousins.

John Crawford is fine as the enigmatic South Africa Smith who persuades Marjorie to trust him even though she has her doubts about him (doubts that the viewer will share). As so often in his early career Paul Eddington plays a sinister character, a criminal who seems to be involved in all manner of illicit activities. Lisa Daniely gives a solid supporting performance as the hapless Alma Weston who keeps seeing things in mirrors that she wishes she didn’t see.

The movie tries to establish an atmosphere of big-time illegal gambling and within the limits of the budget succeeds well enough although the sets are as you might expect a bit on the basic side.

The Man Who Was Nobody is included in the first of Network’s Edgar Wallace DVD boxed sets. It’s a very acceptable anamorphic transfer.

The Man Who Was Nobody is an enjoyable lightweight mystery thriller that manages to preserve at least some of the characteristic Edgar Wallace atmosphere. You don’t want to set your expectations too high for this one. It’s a quota quickie but it’s decent enough entertainment and having Hazel Court as a private eye is certainly a bonus.

1 comment:

  1. I never heard of this one, or any of the other Edgar Wallace mysteries, but it sounds pretty good. I always enjoy cheap British films.

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